October 2nd – The Festival of the Great Mistake

Nowadays the patent for the incandescent light bulb is publicly held, but for many years it was held by the Standwary family, making them incredibly rich in the process. It is for this reason that a common term for a light bulb in Buentoille is a standwary, as that name was emblazoned across their packaging for many years. Yet there was another family, another name which could well have covered this packaging, if it were not for a simple mistake: the Goldholders. Today, the anniversary of Excelsia Standwary’s filing of the patent, this other family will hold a small, faux-protest outside the old patent office.

Tresgothic Goldholder was, apparently, actually the first person to invent the electric lightbulb, but that he filed the patent six minutes after Standwary, and lost out on earning a fortune. There is no suggestion that either side copied the other; this was one of those rare moments of coincidence when the same thoughts seem to filter down to the same minds at once. They had never even met each other before the filing debacle, and didn’t know that they had competition, though they had both attended the play Inaga and the Godly Spear two months before, and had sat eight seats apart. Some commentators have suggested that it was this play which inspired them to invent the lightbulb, but it is far from clear, given the play’s distinct lack of anything resembling a lightbulb, how or why this would be the case.

The protest today lacks the bitterness and anger that it once had; the Goldholders have long lost the sense of rivalry and the sense that they were robbed of a better life, and are now actually fast friends with the Standwarys, since Betty Goldholder reached out to them in 1949. Previous to that point there had been many angry letters exchanged, as well as a few blows, and the Standwarys had been banned from the Goldholders’ chain of night clubs, known for their old-fashioned atmosphere imparted by the gas lighting they used (the Goldholders refused to buy lightbulbs for a long time, not wanting to increase the Standwary fortune), after a contingent of them came in, flaunting their cash and saying they were going to buy the place. The feud died down somewhat after 1875 when the patent expired, but for the next 74 years it merely simmered beneath the surface; each successive generation still harboured hate towards folks they’d never met.

And what were they all so bitter about? A briefcase left on a train. Tresgothic Goldholder had been on his way to the patent office to submit his patent two days before Standwary’s was accepted, and had put the briefcase containing it down on the seat next to him so he wouldn’t forget it. He then bumped into a friend, moved the briefcase beneath the seat so the friend could sit with him, and forgot to pick it up again when he reached his station. It took two days for lost property to locate the briefcase, but when they did all was well; it had not been unlocked or broken open by any curious train passenger. It was with a great sense of relief that Goldholder walked to the office, a feeling that didn’t last long.

The central argument that the Goldholders made clear at their yearly protests was that Tresgothic’s paperwork was dated before Standwary’s, and that he even had copies that he had mailed to himself that remained unopened, the postal time stamp clear and true. However, according to the patent office, none of these mattered, only the time of submission. Where once the signs and chants of the ‘protesting’ Goldholders would have once insulted both the patent office and the Standwarys, they are now used to educate the public about the lives of the ‘two inventors,’ and to attest to the power of reconciliation and friendship; nowadays the Standwarys stand shoulder to shoulder with those they once despised. Afterwards, all 78 family members will go out for dinner together, an additional tradition added on to this annual spectacle given new purpose.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Black Desires Festival
  • The Festival of Unreturned Books
  • The Festival of the Homely Hug